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The Protégé Effect
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Wildwood teachers (left to right) Maria Pizano, Grace Lazzarini, and Carolyn Peralta plan their workshop.

By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach

 

One of the best ways to deepen learning is by teaching—both knowledge and skills—to someone else. Researchers call this practice the protégé effect, and it’s the philosophy behind many of the ways student learning happens at Wildwood.

Our teachers also tap the benefits of the protégé effect through the Wildwood Outreach Center and the opportunities it affords teachers to plan and facilitate workshops that strengthen their instructional agility—benefiting the broader community and, ultimately, Wildwood students.

I recently asked four Wildwood elementary teachers to take on this challenge: Identify something you do well in the classroom and envision how you could share the knowledge and skills needed for that work with other teachers.

 

The answers evolved into two new workshops the Outreach Center will launch this year. In this quick trip behind the scenes, here’s a glimpse of how Wildwood teachers think and create.

 

Workshop: Design Thinking for Systems Learners
November 14, 2018, and February 25, 2019 @ Wildwood’s Elementary Campus

Teachers: Carolyn Peralta (Grade 3), Grace Lazzarini (K-1), and Maria Pizano (K-5 Instructional Technology Coach)

Tools: These three teachers joined forces to envision a new workshop that will fuse two leading-edge practices at Wildwood—design thinking and systems thinking.

First, some definitions: Systems thinking is a pedagogical approach that builds students’ learning upon their understanding of the human-made and natural systems all around them. Design thinking provides students with tools to define and find solutions to all kinds of dilemmas—academic, societal, or global. By combining these two approaches, students can be ideally equipped with skills and strategies that boost their academic and social-emotional learning.

Goal: find the best ways to teach these approaches to other teachers—in both public and private schools to inspire social action work.

Takeaway: “Design thinking requires students to have empathy for others,” Carolyn shares, “which they can use to become agents of change in their communities.” For Grace, her Kindergarteners and 1st graders are interested in looking at systems that have hard-to-solve problems, like hunger and homelessness. “Design thinking lets kids brainstorm lots of solutions,” Grace says. “Even if their ideas seem far-fetched to us adults, they encourage the problem-solving skills that will help them be critically thinking grown-ups.” Maria wants to emphasize the value that design thinking can provide to all kinds of students. “There’s no barrier to entry into these kinds of conversations,” she says. Kids don’t need any specialized knowledge, just an open mind and willingness to share their ideas.

 

Workshop: The Global-Ready Student
April 25, 2019 @ Wildwood’s Elementary Campus

Teacher:  Alli Boas (Grade 2)

Second Grade Teacher Alli Boas facilitates her own systems thinking workshop on a recent visit to Hope Academy in rural Uganda.

Tools: In her Wildwood classroom, Alli highlights the settings in some of the books she reads to her students. Rain School is set in the north-central African nation of Chad, and Waiting for the Biblioburro, is set in Colombia in South America.

Alli has spent several summers teaching in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she’s learned an enormous amount from colleagues at rural schools. Alli also applies her extensive travel experiences and systems thinking acumen to create curricula to guide student learning through a global lens.

Travel has taught Alli that fostering true global citizenship is about more than just reading books set in different countries. “Taking someone else’s perspective is both challenging and essential for kids,” Alli says. “Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes helps kids avoid patterns of stereotypical thinking.” She says students who appreciate a wider range of perspectives also tend to have a deeper understanding of their own cultural realities.

Goals:  Alli shares how her workshop will “help teachers grapple with how to connect with and teach about cultures that they are not part of,” which is a dilemma that she has had to personally address.

A teacher at Hope Academy in Uganda shares his insights on systems thinking with Alli Boas. (Click thumbnail to view video)

Takeaway: Alli plans to use the United Nations 17 Global Sustainability Goals for 2030 as an anchor for her workshop, introducing them to participants as a framework for deeper student learning. An early adopter of systems thinking strategies at Wildwood, Alli has been eager to combine these two approaches to launch her new workshop. “Outreach is where my mind has been with all of our global citizenship and systems work.” Alli says.

 

As Wildwood positions itself for leadership in these innovative areas, our teachers will be ready—deepening their students’ experiences as they sharpen their own skills by helping educators worldwide grow their learning.

 

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